“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:2 (The Message)
There is no “values vacuum”!
Our children and teens are taking in hours of value-embedded messages each day via social media and entertainment venues. There is no such thing as a “values vacuum”. If we aren’t sharing our personal values with our children, someone else will, whether that is an actual person in their lives, or some questionable values dispersed via the mass media.
Each of us is bombarded by media messages every day. Many of those messages are laden with values. Consider the values expressed in these well-known advertising slogans:
• The U.S. Marine Corps: “Semper Fi” (Always Faithful)
• L’Oréal Paris: “Because You’re Worth It.”
• Nike: “Just Do It.”
• Apple: “Think Different.”
• MasterCard: “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”
• Champale Malt Liquor: “Champale Makes You Feel Special, Every Day.”
• Disney Land: “The happiest place on earth”
• McDonald’s: “You Deserve a Break Today.”
• Visa: “It’s Everywhere You Want To Be.”
• Harley Davidson: “American by Birth. Rebel by Choice.”
• Reebok: “I am what I am.”
After a while, we start believing these statements.
In addition to advertising, TV programs, movies, music, social media, signs, and books are loaded with embedded values – some blatant, some less conspicuous.
Sitcoms (situation comedies) are often cultural morality tales, serving to introduce or reinforce what is politically correct. For instance, in current sitcoms a character (neighbor, uncle, friend) who is gay and a “terrific guy or gal” might be introduced to the storyline. This identifies their “alternative lifestyle” to the viewers in an acceptable manner. In this summer’s “Bachelor in Paradise”, seen on mainstream ABC, “the lesbian kiss” was woven into “the pursuit of a potential happily-ever-after relationship”. Over time, these relationships are seen as “the new normal”. Values ebb and flow with what is “trending now”.
Music lyrics continue to impact youth. Taylor Swift fans, known as Swifties, clamored for her new album this year. “In just 48 hours, Lover has the most sales of any album released so far in 2019… Taylor’s not afraid to sing openly about sex and intoxication, occasionally tossing in some profanity, too.” (www.pluggedin.com/music-reviews/album/taylor-swift-lover). It’s difficult to stand one’s ground for abstinence while singing along with Taylor’s songs.
“Where did you get your values?” When adults are asked this question, they usually respond with people who impacted their lives in positive ways: parents, grandparents, scout leaders, Sunday School teachers, neighbors, relatives. As our culture has moved away from extended family gatherings and church attendance, children have less interaction with such positive role models. Homes with two working parents and single parent homes often result in teens spending more time embracing the media.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
The first requirement is TIME. Nothing spells love like T-I-M-E!
The second requirement is engaging in conversation.
Carve out a special time to talk individually with each child or teen. Intentionally start conversations that go deeper than “How was school?” Some possible discussion starters:
• “I have a situation at work that is a bit of a dilemma.” (Share a simple issue.) Ask them their opinion or a possible way of handling this.
• “I was watching a TV program last week and the main character was doing something that bothered me.” (Explain what he or she was doing.) “How would you have reacted in that situation?”
• “On Facebook, I read someone’s post that seemed to be making fun of her friend. What do you think is a good way to respond?”
• “What is the most important part of your life?”
• “If you could do anything this weekend, what would it be?”
• “Who’s your best friend?” “Why did you choose that person?” “What makes someone a good friend?”
The interaction needs to avoid the lecture format or the “when I was your age…” element. Show you care about his or her ideas and opinions.
• Each of us needs a bit of encouragement every day.
• Personal contact is a human need.
• God created us for relationships.
• Overcome the impact of the media with compassion and sincerity.
• Share your values so your children and teens will know – not just guess – what they are.